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The cabin was filled with a warm, dense intensity that even made Chloe feel a little breathless.
“I know what you mean.”
“You do?” Chloe caught the surprise in her own voice.
“Yes. Do you know what it’s like to dream the same dream every night and wake up to realize it might never come true?”
Chloe swallowed hard. “Yes. This may sound crazy, but I always feel on edge when you’re not around. It’s like–”
“Like I want you to be there when I turn the corner but hate the agony of realizing you’re not there.”
She didn’t understand why, but Chloe’s fingers had a difficult time typing out the words correctly.
“Exactly. You’re just saying all of this to make me feel good, aren’t you? You don’t really know what this is like. I’m just wasting my time,” Chloe recited. “Alleia turns and tries to walk away.”
“Ben takes her arm and turns her around. ‘No. I’m not just saying things. I might have before, in the past, but not now. I think about you. I dream about you. I’ve talked Spike’s floppy ears off every day about you. You say I don’t understand, but I do. You don’t know how much I do.’”
Chloe detected the breathy tone as if he were reaching his own breaking point. She turned to make sure Gavin was alright and saw him standing much closer to her than he had before. Now, with his feet firmly planted at the end of the sofa, she could see the odd mix of terror and conviction in his eyes.
He was really getting into character.
She turned back to the computer and typed out more narrative, mirroring Ben’s expression with Gavin’s.
“Alleia is a little shocked and says, ‘I had no idea.’”
“I’ve spent so much time perfecting this stoic appearance. I never wanted you to know because I had no idea if you felt the same way. You’re shy and abrasive sometimes, but that’s what I adore about you. I’ve never met anyone like you in my whole life. Other girls are flimsy and weak, so shallow that they could be mistaken for a wading pool. But you’re like a drinking well. Deep and sometimes dark, but I long to see how deep you can go, and if you’ll permit me, to refresh myself in your soul.”
Chloe held in her grin, pressing her lips tight together as she tried to type out his speech as quickly as she could. This was getting good. Now she was glad that she got Gavin’s input on this scene rather than conceal it from him.
“I didn’t know you were so poetic.”
“There are many things you don’t know about me. And every day that passes, I want to share everything with you. I’ve never been more candid with anyone. But I get the feeling that you don’t care to know. You sometimes act like you don’t want to have anything to do with me.”
“Alleia shakes her head,” and Chloe did too. “No, that’s not it at all. I want to know more about you. I have from the very beginning. I just didn’t know how to talk to you, how to communicate.”
Chloe heard Gavin take a few steps forward. “I’m always here for you. You say the word, I’ll be there, and we’ll talk all night and all day if that’s how you want it. I can’t stand to be parted from you; to have you leave me, as everyone else has. I can’t stand the loneliness anymore.”
Suddenly, the truth of their conversation dawned on Chloe.
Ben had a family, he had friends, he had a pet dog, and coworkers that would fly to the moon and back for him. What Gavin said didn’t match up with his character.
Gavin wasn’t playing anymore.
Chloe turned in her seat to meet his emerald gaze, fierce and full of an emotion that she hadn’t seen before. Unrequited longing for the one he looked upon now.
She opened her mouth to stop him, to break whatever spell it was that she had inadvertently cast on him. But he didn’t. He only continued on, his words tumbling out a little faster than before.
“Before, my world was dark and full of death and despair. I didn’t want to continue that way. I couldn’t take the silence, the loneliness. I needed someone. And then you came. It was as if the sun had come back after centuries of night, but you didn’t burn me. You stayed and accepted me. You gave me hope. I could never repay you for the miracle you’ve worked for me.”
Chloe somehow found the strength to stand, and she rushed towards him, hands raised to stop his mouth from confessing anymore. It was too much.
Gavin grabbed her wrists before she could. “Please, Chloe. Don’t turn me away now,” he begged.
Where was this coming from? Gavin had never led her on to suggest any of this was truthful. How long had he been playing himself and not Ben? What he said about keeping up a stoic face, was that Gavin? It was convincing enough.
But how could this man, this vampire, stand in front of her like this with such a pleading expression, asking her for the thing he must have been craving for centuries—a friend, a companion, someone to love and protect. He didn’t have to say it for her to read it in his eyes.
Chloe felt confused and troubled all at once. Never had a man thrown himself at her like this. Brent never did. Their relationship was slow, gradual. It was months before they really opened up the way that Gavin did now.
The longer she stared up at him, her eyes wide with fear, she realized that this is what she had wanted all along. She needed Gavin just as much as he needed her. But where was this terror coming from? Was it fear of the future? The present? His past? Hers? How far would this go? How could it work?
In a moment of reckless abandon, Chloe denied the doubt and fear. She wanted to be the woman Gavin deserved. Chloe knew she could never replace his late wife, but he wanted her to try. He wanted her.
And then, it was like the floodgates had opened. Before Chloe could stop herself, desperate tears and words poured out.
“I could never reject you. Yes, I was scared at first. But it wasn’t necessarily of you. I was scared of how I’d make it through this whole thing in one piece. I don’t want to be hurt again. I told you how Brent used me and helped to destroy my life. Now, at rock bottom, I didn’t want to chain myself here.
“This was supposed to be my new life, my new adventure. I was going to start fresh and make things right again. When I found you, I thought maybe I was about to get on the same train I should never have gotten on in the first place.”
The tears flowed a little heavier now. “I feel things for you that I never felt with Brent. I don’t even know if this is right. All I know is if you left me today, I don’t know how I could recover.”
Gavin reached out and used his thumb to wipe away the moisture on her cheeks. His touch was soft and warm. “I will never leave you, as long as you still want me here.”
Chloe felt intoxicated by his words, entranced by his nearness and everything he was. “I will always want you here.” Then, an unwelcoming thought entered her mind.
This was all happening so fast. How had they gone from mere friends to declaring their deepest feelings for one another? It wasn’t natural, but it still felt right somehow.
She said, “Are you making me feel this way?”
Knowing that Gavin could do such remarkable things as healing her twisted ankle, make an entire household fall asleep, and make her as immobile as a deer in headlights, it wasn’t a far-fetched idea that he could plant ideas in her head to mold the situation to his liking. He might be able to make her fall for him so fast that she wouldn’t know how it happened.
Gavin shook his head. “I can’t control your mind. I can only control your body in some ways.”
She knew he spoke the truth.
Chloe didn’t understand how it had come to this, and somehow, she didn’t care. The way he looked down at her, with such affection and need in his eyes, she could have died now and gone contented to heaven.
But Gavin decided to give her one more thing.